Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has announced the Federal Government will move to criminalise doxxing, after the transcript from a WhatsApp group chat with hundreds of Jewish members was shared online. Albanese claims the chat was not “political”, but activists have defended the leak as an exposé of Zionist lobbyists targeting pro-Palestine artists and academics.
Albanese said the legislation would be brought to Parliament as soon as possible, and confirmed that this decision was made in the wake of the chat being published — an incident which is now being investigated by police.
“I’ve asked the attorney-general to bring forward legislation in response to the privacy act review, including laws that deal with so-called doxxing, which is basically the malicious publication of private information online,” he said.
He also referred to the Whatsapp group as one that wasn’t “political” and instead claimed it was “just a group to have positive discourse with each other about how they are feeling.”
“Now these people have a range of views about the Middle East. What they have in common is they are members of the Jewish community,” he said.
“The idea that in Australia someone should be targeted because of their religion, because of their faith, whether they be Jewish, or Muslim, or Hindu or Catholic — it’s just completely unacceptable.”
Albanese’s decision has been welcomed by conservative Jewish lobby groups. However, pro-Palestine activists behind the chat being leaked have rejected accusations of “doxxing”. Instead, they describe the publishing of the WhatsApp chat as whistleblowing.
“To frame the sharing of this information as anti-semitic or ‘doxxing’ is an attempt to distract and deflect from the bigoted rhetoric and organised aggression enacted by many in the Zionist group chat against activists, artists, academics and anyone who speaks up for Palestine,” a collective of activists including anti-Zionist Jews, First Nations people and Palestinians wrote in a shared statement.
“Many of us were shocked and disturbed by the contents of the [WhatsApp group’s] transcript as we read the tactics discussed to target and harm the livelihood and reputation of good and just people, some for simply being Palestinian, and almost all for calling for an end to the genocide against the people of Gaza.
“The Zionist group chat was leaked by a whistleblower, one of the groups own members. The names of the Zionist group chat’s members can be obtained from within the transcript itself. All other information shared came from the transcript or is publicly available online.”
The anonymous activists asserted that no addresses, phone numbers or email addresses were shared, and claimed they had “deliberately redacted” sensitive information.
The statement slammed accusations of doxxing and violation of privacy as a “distortion” of events “clearly in service of orchestrating an alternative narrative.”
“The transcript clearly demonstrates collective actions taken by Zionists to contact employers, funding bodies, publishes and journalists to censure anyone deemed a threat to Zionist narrative,” the statement continued.
“Sharing the transcript is in the public interest — for fairness and for justice. For an end to the plotting and enacting of personal and professional harm against us.”
Swinburne University Digital Media and Communications expert Belinda Barnet told PEDESTRIAN.TV that while she welcomed new doxxing laws, she doubted the publishing of a group chat transcript would meet the requirements for what might be considered doxxing.
There’s no legal definition of doxxing currently, but she described it as “not just saying your name in public, but saying your name, [and] putting information which could locate you, put you at risk — that kind of information, in order to damage.”
Feminist author Clementine Ford was one of the artists targeted by the pro-Israel WhatsApp group. Her name was mentioned more than 100 times, according to the activists who leaked the chat, and she wrote on social media that the group’s lobbying resulted in a deal being lost.
In a statement provided to PEDESTRIAN.TV, Ford slammed Albanese’s decision to criminalise doxxing over this matter as a “distraction” and an example of DARVO (Deny, Attack and Reverse Victim and Offender).
“This fixation on rewriting narratives in order to obfuscate the truth is yet another tactic to conceal Israel’s genocide of Palestinian people in Gaza,” she said.
“We are being distracted by absolute nonsense in order to facilitate a genocide, and it’s a disgrace.”
Right now, any allegations of doxxing would be investigated under the Privacy Act because it doesn’t have it’s own criminal code.
While Anthony Albanese described doxxing as the sharing of private information for malicious reasons, what is considered “private” information — or malicious reasoning — remains to be seen. We’ll find out once the legislation is drafted.